How to Stop Fake News in 5 Easy Steps

More Americans are getting their news from social media than ever before. That would be okay if our social feeds delivered news that we can trust. But they don’t.

Traditional news outlets have gatekeepers—trained journalists, editors and fact checkers—who protect us from false information. On the Internet, there are no gatekeepers.

That’s why it’s so important that we learn to read news critically.

Here are five easy ways to tell fact from fiction:

  1. Gut check: Did the headline you just read make you feel a strong emotion? False news is designed to do just that. Before sharing, click the link and check it out.
  2. Fact check: Are any familiar news outlets publishing this story? What do independent, nonpartisan fact checking sites like Snopes, Politifact or Factcheck.org have to say?
  3. Investigate: Dig a little deeper. Check the About page on your source for signs of bias. Who runs the site? How is it financed? Is the tone professional? Do the stories have bylines? Are the authors and interview subjects who they say they are? Is the URL legitimate (some fake news sites mimic well-known news orgs by adding a .co to the end of a legitimate web address)?
  4. Triangulate: Does the image match the story? Use Google’s reverse image search (click the camera icon) or TinEye to track the online history of an image. Use FotoForensics to find out what camera was used and when and where the image was taken (this will only work on images that haven’t had their metadata stripped).
  5. Unplug: It’s okay to read news online, but there are good reasons to add print to your media diet as well. For starters, having print publications in the house helps our kids develop brand recognition. When they start to consume news online, they’ll be more able to recognize quality journalism. Also important: when you read a story in print, you consume it more carefully, and you lose the ability to share it instantly.

What it all comes down to is this: Think before you share.

If we stop spreading fake news, it loses its power. Responsible journalism wins; the public becomes more informed. That’s a victory for everyone.

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